PhD Study : Development of Life Cycle Assessment Tools for Multi-layered pipes

Apply and key information  

This project is funded by:

    • DfE CAST award in collaboration with an innovative composite pipe manufacturer


Advanced fibre-reinforced multi-layered composite pipelines for water and fuel transportation, offer superior mechanical properties and lower weight than conventional materials. One of the company’s major challenges and ultimate goals is to reach sustainability (above 90% reduction in carbon footprint). However, little is known about the environmental impacts and economic costs associated with composites pipes. Hence, this study aims to assist the industrial partner reach its sustainability goals using an integrated life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing framework, as a novel and effective approach. Sensitivity analysis and Monte Carlo simulation will be applied to demonstrate the cost result changes caused by data uncertainty. The economic and environmental impact of composite pipes will be evaluated throughout their entire lifespan, to support the selection of materials, manufacturing technologies and distribution for sustainable manufacturing. The LCA and costing tools will be embedded in the company and tested for the first time, to monitor and reduce carbon foot print effectively (e.g. CO2 emissions).

Due to differences in manufacturing processes and material sources, each type of pipeline entails a unique energy consumption. In general, the life cycle of a pipeline network comprises multiple stages (acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing of pipes, transportation to the site, installation, operation, and decommissioning). Throughout each stage, substantial amounts of energy are consumed, and emissions are released. Currently, there is limited understanding of the environmental implications of different piping materials and processes. This study will help establish a sustainable piping infrastructures, and identify materials with low energy consumption and carbon emissions that can meet the pipeline requirements and functionality.

The project will build on the extensive knowledge of both advanced composites and polymers manufacturing at UU and the industrial partner. It will generate a novel LCA and costing tools for advanced multi-layered carbon fibre composite pipes of various dimensions and materials which paves the way for further research in this area within SoE UU. Previously a Cost Model has been developed for 3D Woven Preforms in a research project led by the involved academic team (Prof. McIlhagger and Dr. Archer), which will be used in the proposed project.  The findings will be disseminated in high impact journals and conferences.

The student will join the AFM2 group and participate in the training courses offered by UU, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) and the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites & Engineering (NIACE), to develop an in-depth knowledge of several fundamental and complex sciences related to polymers/composites, advanced manufacturing, sustainability, characterization techniques and LCA. He/She will have access to lab facilities in UU and NIACE and office space. The student will become familiar with the production line. Regular meetings will be held between the supervisory team, industrial collaborator and the researcher to set project objectives, develop a work plan, discuss the project progress and future steps.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

Funding and eligibility

This project is funded by:

  • DfE CAST award in collaboration with an innovative composite pipe manufacturer

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £20,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 26 February 2024

Interview Date
March 2024

Preferred student start date
16th September 2024


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Contact supervisor

Dr Edward Archer

Other supervisors